In my second year at Emerson College, one of my television courses had me direct a short video production. The professor in this class was an exceptionally chic PBS producer who always clutched a styrofoam cup filled with hot coffee.
I had previously completed many video projects in high school and during my first year at Emerson, and I felt confident in my abilities. The script and storyboard I had submitted the prior week received glowing feedback, so I assured myself I had everything under control when it was my day to direct.
I remember feeling jazzed as I ran back and forth between the control room and the studio, where I set up specific shots and helped move pieces of the set. I rolled a ladder into position under a spotlight and began to scramble up it when my sophisticated instructor nonchalantly called out to me.
“Karl, what are you doing?” she asked.
“Adjusting the light,” I replied.
“Don’t you have a lighting director?” she quizzed.
“Yes,” I said.
“Then tell them what to do,” she said.
“But –,” I started to explain.
She looked up at me and motioned with her hand, “Look around; see all these people just standing? That’s your crew.”
“But, I was just trying to help,” I mumbled.
“Their job is to help you — your job is to direct them. If they aren’t helping you, they know they will fail this assignment. In real life, if they didn’t help you, they would be fired and not get paid,” she said.
I began to protest about how I was brought up to lend a hand, but she would have none of it. In surprising, less than polite PBS language, she commanded me, “Now get your ass off that fucking ladder and into the control room. Do not come out on the studio floor again until the shoot is over and you congratulate or reprimand your crew. Right now, you have a fucking show to do, so use your headset, use your floor manager and use your assistant director. You are the director — fucking direct!”
It shook me up a little bit, but soon the control room and studio were humming with collaborative activity, and it ended up being a great show and terrific experience.
At first blush, this may run counter to how many think teams work, challenging a culture of empowerment or the servant-leadership lifestyle. It does not. In fact, it fits those contexts perfectly well.
Different styles of directors may emphasize one nuanced leadership approach over another, but the basic formula is the same.
- Set and then communicate the vision repeatedly.
- Wisely assign roles and delegate tasks to those who can best fulfill the vision.
- Get out of their way so they can do their job in a manner that compliments your job and supports the vision.
- Give them feedback without doing the work for them.
- At the end of the production, learn from any mistakes and celebrate success.
It’s not that complicated. Do what you’re supposed to do. Directors Direct. Leaders Lead.
Your interaction with someone else or a group of people has three components;
You. Them. Your conversation with them.
It’s rudimentary, yet you probably don’t think about it too much, except when you are retelling the story of what happened or didn’t happen to a third party.
Give these three components greater attention before your interaction, and you will come across as more professional.
A fourth component is nearly always missed, except by exceptional leaders.
Knowing what has happened recently, having situational awareness, or simply “reading the room” can make all the difference between a pleasant conversation and an argument.
Seek to know what’s going on with the people you are communicating with, so you can improve your message and get better results.
As a self-aware, high performer working alone or as part of a larger organization, you recognize that when you are missing something needed to accomplish your goals, you must make an effort to find help to close the gap.
No one likes to be supervised, but have you noticed how you get things done and don’t miss deadlines when others care about and depend on you? Have you successfully put that kind of positive pressure and expectation on yourself?
KICK-ASS BOSS, The Positive Accountability Partner Program from Karl Bimshas Consulting is for busy professionals who want an accountability partner (or professional ally, if you prefer) to help them stay focused, stop procrastinating, reduce time sucks, cheer progress, and reach their weekly goals.
Learn more at kickassboss.com
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